The Spirit(s) of Davidson

Introducing guest blogger Hannah Foltz ’13! Look forward to additional posts this summer!

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving work to define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging.

This week, I’ve been working my way through Quips & Cranks, the College’s yearbook. One of the volumes’ most popular tropes is that of the “Davidson Spirit.” Year in and year out, it is heralded as that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Davidson a special place. Even today, College marketing centers on the notion of being “Distinctly Davidson.”

But what does it mean to possess the “Davidson Spirit?” I was struck by the evolution of this concept, which is illustrated by contrasting the Forewords of Quips & Cranks from 1933 and 1952.

Foreword of the 1933 Quips and Cranks discussing the "Spirit of Davidson." The text is framed by illustrations of campus, including male students under a tree.
Foreword of the 1933 Quips and Cranks discussing the “Spirit of Davidson.”

“Davidson’s student life is in itself homogeneous and simple. Davidson’s spirit is emblematic of the unpretentious denying itself the luxuries of form and show. Davidson’s faculty, like her students, are alike in tastes and pursuits. Davidson’s traditions are few but powerful, making evident the sameness of the mould in which we are all cast. Davidson’s athletics speak eloquently of this same spirit of modesty. Davidson’s activities add voices of modulation to the general tone.

Of this life without superfulity and unwanted ostentation Davidson’s Yearbook attempts to speak. Therefore with simple lines and plain colors we have built a monument to that Spirit of Davidson.”

1933 (Robert L. McCallie, ed.)

1952 Quips and Cranks foreword discussing the spirit of Davidson. Images of students and faculty line the edges of the page.
Foreword to the 1952 edition of Quips and Cranks.

“Every man in the class is different. Everything we do is unique. We are a class and as a group we have characteristics that are solely our own. We have lived together and suffered together and out of this heroic mixture we have developed a sense of brotherhood that makes us distinct from any other class before and since…

The Davidson Story is not devoted to any one class or any one group of any description. It is a blend, whether good or bad, of the character of anyone that has ever participated in the corporate life that is the college. From the President to the rawest janitor, each has a role and a line in the comedy or the tragedy that is Davidson.”

1952 ( William A. Adams, ed.)

While perhaps the dourness of 1933 can be attributed to Depression-era values or a reaction against rising fascism abroad, it’s clear that its notion of the Davidson Spirit is one that is static and inherent. It is something one is born with, something that determines membership in the community. It is very Protestant. It is a “sameness of mould.”

Fortunately, by 1952, the notion of the Davidson Spirit (or Story, in this case) had grown closer to how we conceive of it today: an ethos developed through a shared transformative experience, not through any inherent sameness. This Spirit can be taken up by every member of the community, each in his own way. This Spirit includes a recognition of the good—and the bad—in its past and present. All in all, where the other is unchangeable and exclusive, this Spirit is dynamic and welcoming.

Yes, Davidson was still far from realizing this ideal Spirit in 1952; it was still all male, and virtually all white and all Christian. And yet, this articulation of an alternative kind of unity marks an important step towards building the kind of inclusive, generous, and enjoyable educational community we are still striving to create.

Guest Blogger: Emelyn Schaeffer, “The Years Flew By in Colors”*

My name is Emelyn Schaeffer and I am from Atlanta, GA. I am approaching my sophomore year at Davidson and I am thinking about double majoring in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am excited about working in Archives and Special Collections this summer, learning more about how the library operates, and discovering more about Davidson’s past.

This weekend is Alumni Reunion Weekend for Davidson and we are collecting some publications written by members of the classes attending to showcase during Saturday’s Avant Garde lunch. It is the class of 1963’s 55th reunion and they are being honored with an induction into the Avant Garde. With this in mind, we took a peek into what life was like on Davidson’s campus in 1963.

The spring issue of Scripts ’n Pranks – a literary and satirical magazine published for students to showcase their classmates’ work – in the 1962-1963 school year is called the “Mud-Luscious, Puddle Wonderful Issue” and features an Alice in Wonderland inspired cover.

Cover of Scripts 'n Pranks showing Alice in Wonderland characters gazing at Alice in a swimming hole filled with alcoholCover of Scripts ‘n Pranks April, 1963

One of the editors commented on a collection of pictures of “The Young Turks.” The Book Review speaks of W. Wolfe’s Youth Movements as a satirical novel, but declares, “All true satire bears a moral viewpoint, since otherwise the satirist would have no enduring purpose, but Wolfe lets his outrage ruin his art.”

Scripts 'n Pranks black and white advertisement, showing the same individual on every seat of a planeScripts ‘n Pranks Advertisement

The class of 1963 was the first one for which Inklings was published, a collection of writing from the class during its freshman year. It includes a mix of genres, from fiction to articles on current events. Back-to-back articles include “How Great Thou Art” and “Man in the Age of the Hydrogen Bomb,” which could point to some mixed feeling on the future of the world.

Cover of Inklings, 1963, Writings by Freshmen

Cover of Inklings, 1963

The annual – Quips and Cranks – of 1963 discusses heritage and college as a game that must be learned in order to succeed:

Cover of Quips and Cranks Cover 1963, green cover with the title written forward and backwards

Quips and Cranks Cover 1963

“When the student is apart from the crowd, he allows himself to think, talk or joke about Davidson. It is then that he questions his purpose in life, wonders what his career should be, and estimates what he has learned and accomplished. In that moment, alone, he leaves the game, looks at it and himself, and is shamefully conscious that he has grossly underestimated the goals he must attain in order to be a well educated man. In these moments, alone, the student has realized his failure and has made himself more aware of the ideals he must fulfill. He will once again attempt, no matter how fruitlessly, to succeed.”

In the senior section, the editors added:

“After graduation, the senior finds time to evaluate his college achievements and to look at his future. He realizes that he has had little time during the past year to play the game of college and wonders whether the game taught him anything about himself or was even adequate preparation for this ending and beginning. It does not seem as important as he first thought, and, perhaps, if he had not played, it would not have made any difference. But, as he rationalizes, can a student accomplish anything without the game?”

While I, as a Davidson student, laugh a little at these passages because of how they echo some of my own thoughts as I look towards my future, I hope the alumni of this class now look back on their time at Davidson with a heart full of pride and love for a place that properly prepared them for all they thought to attempt and succeed in doing. Many things may have changed on this campus and in this world in the last 55 years, but the traditions we share – the Freshman Cake Race, the Honor Code, outlets of creativity, hard work, and love of this school – will forever connect alumni and students.

*lyrics from Dan Hill’s “Growing Up”

Quips, Cranks, and Wanton Wiles: Origins of the College Yearbook’s Title

In yesterday’s issue of the campus newspaper, The Davidsonian, an article by Emma Brentjens ’21 profiled the two women behind the school’s yearbook–Quips and Cranks. Mariah Clarke ‘18 and Hayley Atkins ‘18 are currently co-Editors-in-Chief of the 123 year-old publication. The Quips and Cranks was founded in 1895 and, according to College Archivist DebbieLee Landi, the yearbook originally served as a creative outlet for students, becoming the second campus publication of student work and interests beyond the Davidson Monthly. Since 1895, Quips and Cranks has connected students, archivists and alumni with Davidson College’s past.

Cloth book cover. Colorblocked with one thick teal stripe on the left side, the rest is beige. "QUIPS AND CRANKS" is written in gold lettering.

Quips and Cranks 1895, volume I.

While most members of the Davidson community are more than familiar with the college yearbook, Quips and Cranks, they may be less familiar with the origins of its title.  

The title comes from a line of Milton’s poem L’Allegro as published in his 1645 anthology, Poems. The poem is a companion to another Milton piece, Il Penseroso. As Jennifer Hickey and Thomas H. Luxon of the John Milton Reading Room at Dartmouth College describe the pairing, “l’allegro is the “happy person who spends an idealized day in the country as a festive evening in the city, il penseroso is “the thoughtful person” whose night is filled with meditative walking in the woods and hours of study in a ‘lonely Towr’.” The poem puts at odds the sensations of mirth and melancholy through the perspectives of a man enjoying the wonders of nature in the countryside and vibrant city life.

Specifically, the yearbook title comes from this passage:

Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee

Jest and youthful Jollity,

Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,

Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,

Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,

And love to live in dimple sleek;

Sport that wrinkled Care derides,

And Laughter holding both his sides.

Here, Milton is idolizing the joys the nature brings to one who walks within it, such joys indeed are also brought to the students of Davidson College by one another. For those who seek to share some of that joy, digitized copies of the Quips and Cranks dating back to the 1895 edition and as recent as 2011 can be found on the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections website.

Matte silver book cover featuring shiny lowercase cursive writing reading "davidson" up the right side of the cover and the wildcat logo. "Quips and Cranks" is featuring on the lower left diagonal side of the logo.

Quips and Cranks 2017, volume CXIV.

The full version of L’Allegro can be found here.

The John Milton Reading Room article on L’Allegro can be found here.

The article from The Davidsonian can be founds here.


Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College”

This is part one of a two-part post; the second post will be on Wednesday of this week.

I am a Class of 2019 Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double major at Davidson College from Camden, New Jersey. My interests range from the social and cultural intersections of the African diaspora and Latin America to the political and linguistic disparities between the two.

In the United States, many criticize the system for its failure to provide change inclusive enough to satisfy diverse populations. This system, whose evolutionary apparatus has been a combination of racism and white supremacy, cannot improve as long as its inconsistencies remain unchanged or are changed without its history in mind. In my opinion, Davidson College has done a decent job at separating itself as an institution from the greater system within which it exists. While the college has undone most discriminatory practices, blindness has been a leading instrument in the college’s push for improvement throughout its recent history. A system built on blindness – whether color-blindness, class-blindness, or any other form – is as flawed a system as one built on racism. This is not because one or the other is more prone to oppression, but instead because blindness does not work toward its own eventual goal of undoing structural oppression and underrepresentation. Davidson’s present reality of incomplete social inclusivity and color-blind ideologies can be attributed to its history of color-blindness as an apparatus of change in Davidson’s social realm. Contradictions of inclusivity within Patterson Court organizations, arguments against the diversification of Greek life, and minimal representation on campus have prolonged Davidson’s improvement historically.

Davidson College’s preference for color-blindness does not mean it is incapable of making anti-racist decisions. In terms of black student admission, Davidson had its first African American alumnus in 1968 with Wayne Crumwell, officially admitting him in 1964. This goes against the common narratives of near universal southern pushback against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for scholastic integration.

Black and white photograph of Wayne Crumwell, portrait style, 1968

Wayne Crumwell, Class of 1968


Just five years earlier, the Davidson College Board of Trustees insisted that 1959 was not a time when the “admission of Negroes” was in the “best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes.”[1] In that same vein, in a pre-1964 majority report by a few higher-ups at Davidson College, there were some interesting arguments against the admission of African Americans to Davidson College. These ranged from how the college would have to “lower the quality of its education” to how the admission of blacks would encourage miscegenation, which was outlawed at the time.[2] Yet, as soon as the civil rights law compelled Davidson to comply with integration, the college as an institution did so relatively quickly. In addition to that, by 1970 the Black Student Coalition was founded on campus.[3] Davidson’s speed in diversifying its student body and providing representation for its minority student demographic are evidence of the college’s ability to push toward anti-racism and cultural representation despite strong opposition within the community. However, following the increasing level of diversity on campus in terms of gender and race, Davidson began to favor a color-blind ideology that guided decisions that would soon alter the appearance and atmosphere of the space.

By 1989, Davidson College had six white fraternities in Patterson Court. In that same year, a student debate regarding whether to introduce a black fraternity to Patterson Court surfaced. On October 25, 1989, a white Davidson College senior named Tom Moore wrote a piece responding negatively to one written by a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., interest group a few weeks earlier. In his piece, Moore argued that a black fraternity “would segregate the campus” and that assimilation is the “best way to improve lines of communication”; he even contends that a black fraternity sounds like “the rationale for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine” and that minorities on campus should just assimilate because Davidson’s predominately white social circles reflect the social reality of America.[4] Although radical, Moore’s comments illuminate the basis of the inclusivity argument that: existing social organizations at Davidson are already inclusive and the exclusivity of a different organization would fragment the campus. This inclusivity argument, as one will see, goes on to repeat itself throughout Davidson’s evolution. In response to Moore’s statements, black junior Darry Strickland published in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian what would be the opposite pole of the debate. Strickland called out Moore on his “ethnocentric attitude” and communicated how black males at the college were forced to assimilate into white fraternities if they wished to participate in Greek life on campus at all.[5] Even though white fraternities at Davidson College were not allowed to racially discriminate explicitly at the time, there is a reason that black male students interested in Greek life were not joining these fraternities at the college en masse. The organizations may have been inclusive on paper, but not diverse enough. They maintained their inclusivity, neglecting why it failed in the diversification of white organizations. Although this contradiction of inclusivity was not necessarily the fault of the existing organizations on campus, Moore failed to acknowledge what black students wanted.

black and white photograph Melissa Givens, portrait style, 1989

Melissa Givens, Class of 1989


Black senior Melissa Givens makes this clear in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian as well, providing more insight into how blacks fared in the Davidson social scene. In her commentary, she calls on Moore and the Davidson College community repeatedly to “accept and celebrate the differences” as opposed to recognizing them without their celebration, as the college had been doing.[6] In other words, some within the Davidson College had been viewing differences as divisive, including Moore. I agree with Givens that assimilation silences those voices that are not a part of the majority. Her argument combats color-blindness directly and is one of the earlier moments of analysis identical to mine.


Bibliography, Part One

[1] Davidson College Board of Trustees. Meeting Summary, 1959.

[2] Davidson College Admissions Committee, “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

[3] “Black Student Coalition House Showcases New Student-Painted Mural,” Davidson College News, September 11, 2013.

[4] Tom Moore. “Here’s how a black fraternity could be a bad idea,” Davidsonian Column, October 25, 1989.

[5] Darry Strickland. “A black fraternity is not an insidious plot,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989.

[6] Melissa Givens. “A frat is not separate but equal—just different,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989

Fake News @ Davidson, A Multidisciplinary Discussion and a Humor Column


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – 11:05 AM – 12:05 PM
Fake news has become a buzzword that can mean many things to many people. But what does it mean for us at Davidson? How prepared are students to identify fake news and navigate today’s media? How might a liberal arts approach inform our understanding of fake news and help us avoid being taken in by it? Join us for a panel discussion to explore these questions. Librarians will present data about incoming Davidson students’ ability to evaluate media sources and faculty members will bring their unique disciplinary training to bear on the issue of fake news.

Knobloch Campus Center Alvarez- Smith 900 Room

Foiling Fake News poster

There have been a number of college humor magazines in Davidson’s history: Scripts and Pranks, The David’s Onion, The Davidphonian, The Devoidsonian and The Yowl; although, The Yowl is the only edition to be reawakened in the twenty-first century.  In 2004, it reappeared as a column in “The Davidsonian”, bringing its version of the news to provide entertainment to the Davidson community.  The final issue of the 2016-2017 academic term proclaimed, “This Issue Brought to You By: Undying Cynicism”  and provided “The Yowl’s Year in Review.”  The September 7, 2017 issue, in keeping with the theme of fake news, stated, “This Issue Brought To You By: A Gross Violation of Journalistic Integrity.”


The Chameleon’s Color: The Story of a Short-Lived Student Literary Magazine

This week’s blog highlights a short-lived student-run literary magazine: The Chameleon. The Chameleon, which ran from 1926 through 1930, was born out of the Davidson Monthly, first published in 1870. In the 1880s the Monthly became Davidson College Magazine, and then morphed into The Chameleon in 1926.

The first issue of The Chameleon, May 1926. Orange with a little chameleon on the cover.

The first issue of The Chameleon, May 1926.

The first issue, put out in May 1926, showed a magazine in transition – no single editor was named, but editorial duties were credited to the Blue Pencil Chapter of Sigma Upsilon, which was the local chapter of a southern literary society. By the November 1926 issue, Holcombe M. Austin (Class of 1927), who had had a short story published in that first Chameleon issue a few months prior, was installed as editor. Austin penned the first “Cham’s Colors” editorial, which explained the impetus behind the shift in the publication and its goals:

Last spring an alumnus, three years graduate, when he had finished reading the red-covered pamphlet, the ‘official, licensed magazine’, sent to him from his alma mater, commented, “Why the boys don’t believe in the kind of stuff that’s in here. This wild thing is just a half-baked imitation of the green-backed radical type of magazine. I know that the thinking men in The College aren’t in sympathy with this kind of thing.”

In attempting escape from the brand “collegiate” the college magazine has wandered afield, lost its way, and with that scarified its value as a student publication.

THE CHAMELEON would be otherwise, would be distinctly Davidson, distinctly student… CHAM wants on his pages the color of student opinion and thought.

Holcombe M. Austin's full editorial in the first issue of the new Chameleon, November 1926.

Holcombe M. Austin’s full editorial in the first issue of the new Chameleon, November 1926.

The Davidsonian covered the release of the December 1926 Cham in their December 16 issue, explaining that “various types of criticism received concerning the first number of this magazine have aided materially in molding the form of this edition.” The story went on to explain the recurring design scheme of The Chameleon:

The Chameleon will begin its policy of changing colors every issue with this edition. The cover of this number being a light blue, the name of the magazine and the usual cut being printed with dark blue ink and shaded with silver. This combination will make as striking an appearance as the jacket in which the first edition was enclosed.

The first three covers of the new run of The Chameleon, showing the repeated design.

The first three covers of the new run of The Chameleon, showing the repeated design.

The cover design of The Chameleon followed this pattern from November 1926 until February 1930. In the December 1936 issue, editor Holcombe M. Austin expanded upon the purpose of the magazine:

The cry of every college editor, the cry, for that matter, of every editor who pilots a magazine of literary pretensions, is for the distinctive, “the original.” Not that the bizarre or extreme is demanded, but when there comes to the editor’s desk a short story or essay through strangely characteristic style or curiousness of subject matter achieves the unusual, his heart is filled with gladness. He clasps the manuscript to his bosom and gives praise… CHAM is looking forward to spring raiment. Then, as now, color without, and so help him students, within!

After this editorial no others were published in the magazine until what would be its last issue in February 1930. In that issue, which also featured a new cover design, editor-in-chief Robert F. Jarratt (Class of 1930), explained the changes to the magazine and hinted at its uncertain future:

Ever faithful to the connotation of its name, the CHAMELEON again changes… During it’s life the CHAMELEON has the Quips and Cranks, and the Davidsonian, both grow to maturity. While the CHAMELEON instead of growing stronger with the passing years, has deteriorated with age…

For the past few years there have been constant changes in the CHAMELEON, all due to the efforts of the editor to strike upon a combination that will be pleasing to the members of the student body, and also reflect the best of student body literary efforts. What few changes that will be made this year, are only tentative efforts to hit upon this combination. Whether they are effective will be demonstrated by their performance.

The cover and editorial of the February 1930 issue.

The cover and editorial of the February 1930 issue.

Unfortunately, The Chameleon‘s redesign did not save it, and the February 1930 issue was its last. College humor magazines The Yowl and Scripts ‘N’ Pranks sprung up in 1935 and 1936 to fill the gap, and Davidson College was without a strictly literary student-run magazine until Hobart Park began in 1978.

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Freshman: Highlighting Student Publication Sanity Rare

Student publications are invaluable to the Archives & Special Collections here at Davidson College – we use the annual Quips and Cranks and weekly newspaper The Davidsonian countless times per semester in instruction and to answer reference questions. In addition to verifying facts, these student-produced publications provide insight into student culture at the time they were written. Recently, while answering a reference question, I stumbled across a reference to a short-lived student humor magazine called Sanity Rare.

Covers of the 1925 and 1926 issues of Sanity Rare.

Covers of the 1925 and 1926 issues of Sanity Rare.

Sanity Rare was published by the Junior Class as part of the Junior Speaking program in 1925, 1926, and 1927. By the 1920s Junior Speaking, which had grown out of commencement exercises for the Junior and Senior classes, separated from the Senior exercises and turned unto a social weekend featuring variety shows. Later, Junior Speaking would morph into a dance weekend and then Spring Frolics, still celebrated today. Sanity Rare, published in conjunction with Junior Speaking, was filled with jokes, cartoons, short poems, and advertisements for local businesses. The 1927 Quips and Cranks featured a page on Sanity Rare, describing the magazine as “a safety valve for the humorists and cartoonists on the campus.”

Cover of the 1927 issue of Sanity Rare, and the student activity page describing the magazine and listing its staff in the 1927 Quips and Cranks.

Cover of the 1927 issue of Sanity Rare, and the student activity page describing the magazine and listing its staff in the 1927 Quips and Cranks.

Like the longer-running humor magazines The Yowl (1930 – 1936, revived as a column in The Davidsonian in 2004) and Scripts ‘N Pranks (1936 – 1965), Sanity Rare poked fun at Davidson students (particularly freshmen), faculty, and traditions and as well as social issues of the time.

This cartoon from the 1925 Sanity Rare pokes fun at a practical life application of chemistry studies - making moonshine.

This cartoon from the 1925 Sanity Rare pokes fun at a practical life application of chemistry studies – making moonshine during prohibition.

From the 1926 Sanity Rare, the joke this blog takes its title from. "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Freshman."

From the 1926 Sanity Rare, the joke this blog takes its title from.

"Junior Class Questionnaire" from the 1926 Sanity Rare. Example questions, "Do you Smoke? Have you ever used your room-mate's razor? Have you ever slept in church? Have you ever thrown water out of a window?"

“Junior Class Questionnaire” from the 1926 Sanity Rare.

A page in the 1927 Sanity Rare lampoons, "Sanity Rare We Dedicate this here Edition to them "Trustys" what deep down in there heart did vote that us mite begin injoy the art of....", then there is an illustration of two people dancing and below them, "1927 A.D."

Dances were not permitted on campus until the 1940s, as this is page in the 1927 Sanity Rare lampoons.

This joke from the 1927 Sanity Rare ribs both fraternities and Davidson's boarding house tradition. "A fraternity house is a place where a fellow pays perfectly good money for food which he wouldn't eat at home--and so is your old boarding house."

This joke from the 1927 Sanity Rare ribs both fraternities and Davidson’s boarding house tradition.

Many of the jokes in the magazine surrounded dating and Sanity Rare‘s editorial page always listed several women under the category “Inspirational and Otherwise,” perhaps commenting on the fact that many students invited dates to Junior Speaking weekend. The 1926 editorial page, for instance, opens with this address to its readers: “SANITY RARE extends to the many young ladies, who have honored us with their presence on this joyous occasion, a most sincere welcome. During the long winter months as we sat in our rooms, thinking fondly of the days of Junior Speaking, the thought of your presence among us was an inspiration.”

Editorial page of the 1926 issue of Sanity Rare.

Editorial page of the 1926 issue of Sanity Rare, which also calls for the establishment of a regular humor magazine on campus – a void that The Yowl and then Scripts ‘N Pranks would later fill.

While Sanity Rare and other college humor magazines provide a valuable glimpse into student life from an earlier period, they also often illustrate intolerance – much of the material in Sanity Rare struck me as racist, sexist, and in poor taste. When our run of Scripts ‘N Pranks was digitized by a student during summer 2014 (Ellyson Glance ’16; see her post on her archives summer work here), she also commented on how many of the jokes in the pages of that mid-century humor magazine offended her.

This section from the 1925 issues of Sanity Rare is an example of the racist and antisemtic jokes that frequenrly appear in the pages of Sanity Rare. There is an illustration pared with the joke, it is a sketch of a street corner, there is a KKK member holding a stick, a sign that says, "Old Clothes Sale Cheap", with what is supposed to be Jewish people running around.

This section from the 1925 issue is an example of the racist and antisemitic jokes that frequently appear in the pages of Sanity Rare.

While jokes mocking the African-American population or giving dating “advice” that suggests date rape certainly does not make for enjoyable reading, these humor magazines are still providing a portrait of student life – in Sanity Rare‘s case, what some Davidson students found funny in the mid-1920s. Preserving material that provides negative views or makes researchers (and archivists!) uncomfortable is important – knowing what past generations of students considered acceptable within the bounds of humor lets today’s researchers gain insight into the specific culture of Davidson College, but also wider student culture and American culture.

As College President Carol Quillen commented in the recent Huffington Post article, “What Three College Presidents Learned from Campus Racism Protests,” “When students are looking to the institution… some of what they’re doing is saying, ‘Do your job’… your job is to give [them] what [they] need to go from this experience of marginalization and pain to a political position. That’s what education does, and insofar as we’re not doing that for them, we need to do better.” In this archivist’s opinion, part of doing my job better is aiding students and other researchers in understanding the history of Davidson College – even when that history reflects badly on our community.

Say It Isn’t So

This week Around the D is featuring news stories that may have reader’s wishing that it wasn’t so.

Spring 1949 was not a happy for Davidson seniors.

1949 story on an extended semester for seniors, with the heading, "Loss of Examination Records Distrupts Seniors Schedule"

1949 story on an extended semester for seniors.


According to the story, a loss of all first semester grade records resulted in the decision to have the class of 1949 retake their exams from that semester.  The college did offer to cover fees for the GRE for any students opting to take those as well.

A few years later, controversy struck campus in two events: one involving journalism and the other athletics.

Davidsonian editor in trouble in 1953, with heading, "Editor Myers In $50,000 Publications Libel Suit"

Davidsonian editor in trouble in 1953.

The good news is that the libel suit didn’t involve any Davidson publications, just Mike Myers, good friend of Bill Edwards. While there were no follow up stories, it appears that the suit was dismissed.  The same proved true for the athletes, with the Davidsonian exaggerating their involvement in the “top money fix of all time.”


Article in Davidsonian with heading, "Basketball Scandal Hits Campus; Two Wildcat Players Are Involved Canceled Check Links Fix To N.Y. Gambling Syndicate"

Even before Bob McKillop, the basketball team had ties to New York.

In 1955, athletics were trouble-free but the Student Government faced unprecedented power shifts.

Davidsonian headline, "Feeney administration outsted in campus revolution"

1955 SGA upset

The article reports on confrontations beginning in Georgia dorm and moving into Chapel resulting in a minor injury to organist Herb Russell.

Less controversial but in the end less successful was a proposed memorial to Davidson’s presidential alumnus, Woodrow Wilson.

Student editorial cartoonist Don Mahy's rendition of the memorial.

Student editorial cartoonist Don Mahy’s rendition of the memorial.

As noted in a previous Around the D, Davidson has hosted some big name concerts. Over the decades campus shows include performers Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, and Ludacris.  Here’s one from  1958 we missed.

Article about the 1958-59 Artist Series with the heading, "Presley To Kick Off '58-59 Artist Series"

You might say the 1958-59 Artist Series took a new twist with this daring selection.

In the same issue announcing the concert, campus planners received attention for proposing a new style of dormitory.  Intended to be named for Woodrow Wilson, perhaps because of the failure of the proposed 1955 memorial, the dorm would have given the Charlotte skyline a challenge.

1958 proposal for a high-rise for Davidson in the Davidsonian with heading, "10-Story Dorm Scheduled"

1958 proposal for a high-rise for Davidson.

We can now say “It isn’t quite so.”  If you haven’t guessed it already, all these stories have one important feature in common– being published on April 1.

Happy April Fools Day



Religious Satire – Davidson Style

The ability to laugh at ourselves is a gift. The work of political and satirical cartoons is to make us think, to see another perspective and to challenge the practice of taking anything too seriously.

Around the D joins in the international proclaims of “Je suis Charlie” this week with a look at student cartoons around the topic of religion at Davidson.

From 30 October 1953 poking fun at students inattention during Chapel.

From 30 October 1953 poking fun at students inattention during Chapel.

The earliest cartoon found comes from 1953. The caption reads “In Davidson Everybody Reads the Davidsonian” and depicts students ignoring a Chapel speaker by reading the paper.  Sixteen years later, student efforts to avoid chapel still inspired the Davidsonian cartoonists.

From 7 February 1969, mocking both exam season and student tricks to avoid chapel.

From 7 February 1969, mocking both exam season and student tricks to avoid chapel.

In 1960, segregation was a hot topic at Davidson with students still deeply divided.  This cartoon plays on the college’s Presbyterian heritage and the 10 commandments adding an 11th commandment Thou shalt love thy white neighbor as thyself.

From 16 February 1960 protesting segregation with an 11th commandment added saying, "Thou Shalt Love Thy White Neighbor as Thyself"

From 16 February 1960 protesting segregation.

From 8 April 1960 juxtaposing Davidson College Presbyterian Church and a favorite local bar

From 8 April 1960 juxtaposing Davidson College Presbyterian Church and a favorite local bar

This cartoon plays with student love of beer (Our Lady of Milwalkee) and their dislike of regular church attendance.

Student apathy, whether towards church and chapel services or involvement in the religious service activities of the YMCA was a popular theme.

From 10 November 1961 showing a student taking rather than leaving shoes for a YMCA drive

From 10 November 1961 showing a student taking rather than leaving shoes for a YMCA drive

From 19 October 1962 with more direct criticism of student apathy

From 19 October 1962 with more direct criticism of student apathy

From 7 December 1962 satirizing student preference for holiday parties over charity

From 7 December 1962 satirizing student preference for holiday parties over charity

College policies, particularly around the practices of religious requirements for faculty and faculty oaths, became a re-occurring theme.

From 17 October 1958, this cartoon accompanied an editorial on the required faculty oath.

From 17 October 1958, this cartoon accompanied an editorial on the required faculty oath.

From 23 October 1964, the ball and chain motif reappears, this time hampering new faculty from applying to Davidson

From 23 October 1964, the ball and chain motif reappears, this time hampering new faculty from applying to Davidson

From 20 November 1964, criticizing the Board of Trustees for focusing on faculty oaths instead of campus reforms.

From 20 November 1964, criticizing the Board of Trustees for focusing on faculty oaths instead of campus reforms.

From 20 April 1977, during the Linden controversy

From 20 April 1977, during the Linden controversy

The Cuban crisis in 1962 inspired a cartoon about religious blockades at Davidson.

From 26 October 1962 showing a Cuba-shaped Davidson College caught between tradition and new vesper policies

From 26 October 1962 showing a Cuba-shaped Davidson College caught between tradition and new vesper policies

The appearance of an atheist speaker on campus in 1964 brought a bit of dinosaur humor to the editorial page.

From 14 February 1964, cartoon and headline from editorial, "Area Fundamentalists Protest Athiest's Talk"

From 14 February 1964, cartoon and headline from editorial

Questions of war and peace arose in 1963 and 1967.

From 18 October 1963, peace message not being well-received by students

From 18 October 1963, peace message not being well-received by students

From 29 September 1967, using a quotation from the college catalog to raise issues of faith and war

From 29 September 1967, using a quotation from the college catalog to raise issues of faith and war

In 1984, a student group, the Davidson Christian Fellowship held a mock funeral on campus. The Davidsonian article reporting on the funeral and the demise of DCF begins:

DCF is dead,”declared Davidson Christian Fellowship President Frank Ivey. In a dramatic ceremony at Coffee and Cokes last Wednesday in front of Chambers, several DCF members dressed in sombre clothes, and bearing a coffin, pronounced the organization’s demise. This means that there will be no more large group meetings.  The Fellowship ceases to exist. Spokesmen Craig Detweiler and Ivey explained that DCF had failed in its mission to meet the needs of Davidson students. They criticized themselves and DCF for misrepresenting the true nature of Christianity.
While the DCF members took their decision seriously, the cartoonist in the same issie offered a lighter perspective.

From 20 April 1984, with St. Peter questioning self-martyrdom

From 20 April 1984, with St. Peter questioning self-martyrdom

Here are a few more editorial efforts:

Davidson Resolutions

Happy New Year from Around the D!

In case you are having trouble coming up with appropriate resolutions for 2015, here’s a look at some resolutions from New Years past:

In 1922, students were encouraged to attend the YMCA Sunday evening meetings. Noting that these meetings were “the only religious meeting at Davidson which the student body can claim as distinctively its own,” the Davidsonian editors rued that “attendance is not what it should be.” For those editors, it was not enough that half to two-thirds of the student body was now attending. They asked that every student (all 512 enrolled in 1922) to “resolve to become a regular attender.”

January 13, 1922 Davidsonian editoral with the heading, "New Year Resolutions"

January 13, 1922 Davidsonian editoral “New Year Resolutions”

Being a better student has been a popular them – appearing in editorials in 1927, 1955, 1960, and 2011. Taking a very serious tone, the 1927 editors declared, ” To everyone the New Year holds out a challenge, but this challenge is particularly directed at college students, the men and women who are preparing themselves for the great job of making the world fit during the next generation.” They encouraged students to consider the question, “Why are you in college?” and how well their time is being used.

January 13, 1927 Davidsonian editorial challenging students to reflect on why they are in college.

January 13, 1927 Davidsonian editorial challenging students to reflect on why they are in college.

Gilbert Gragg, class of 1955

Gilbert Gragg, class of 1955

Gilbert Gragg took a satirical approach in 1955 creating a list of resolutions that included:

I resolve to continue taking every cut allowed me.

I resolve never to been on campus after noon on Saturday and before seven on Sunday.

I resolve to not participate in UCM or attend any of the Artist Series, as I may be stimulated and challenged.

I resolve to be as critical as possible of every aspect of Davidson life to show my maturity and independence.

January 14, 1955 Davidsonian article by Gilbert Gragg with the heading, "ODK, PBK, Christ: Resolutions for '55"

January 14, 1955 Davidsonian article by Gilbert Gragg.

The writer of the 1960 editorial focused on organizations more than individuals finding that student organizations needed to be more focused, the Interfraternity Council was making “little effort to integrate their work with the educational aims of the college,” the YMCA leadership lacked a clear vision, the Student Council and Davidsonian were deemed below par, and the campus had “little basic criticism and debate, and even less encouragement of them.” He did have kinder words for the International Relations Club for their promotion of African issues and the denominational fellowships for deepening their activities.

One question remains -who is the Robinson offering this critique?

January 8, 1960 New Year's resolutions editorial with the heading, "Robinson Offers Evalutation at First Semester's End; Calls For Examination, Critique of Campus Life"

January 8, 1960 New Year’s resolutions editorialIn 2011 the focus shifted from campus life to wellness, with writer Jaqui Logan offering gentle tips for healthy resolutions.

January 19, 2011 resolution advice article with the heading, "The Wellness Corner: Resolve your resolutions"

January 19, 2011 resolution advice article

Paul Alderman, class of 1931

Paul Alderman, class of 1931

On a few occasions, the sports page writers claimed the resolution making. In 1930, P. R. Alderman sought to improve Davidson athletic future by having students join in recruiting efforts. While acknowledging that “No one can truthfully say that Davidson is a losing college as far as athletics are concerned,” he also argued that “at the same time it is fighting against great odds, just as other comparatively small schools are.” His New Year’s suggestion was for students to “write or speak to a friend who has made good in athletics in high school” and encourage them to come to Davidson.

January 16, 1930 article by Paul Alderman in the Davidsonian with the heading, "Personal Duty to Athletics"

January 16, 1930 article by Paul Alderman

Will Bryan and Suzy Eckl took a wider approach in 2007 encouraging their fellow students to: get interactive, spend time with friends, save money, be kind to your neighbor, get in shape, honor thy elders and learn something new – all with a sports twist. Spending time with friends meant waiting in line together to pick up basketball tickets, saving money happened by attending more sports events (since they are free to students), and honor thy elders meant celebrating Bob McKillop’s 300th win and pushing for the basketball court to named for him (finally happened in 2014!)

January 24, 2007 Davidsonian sports resolutions article with the heading, "New Year's resolutions: the top 7 in '07"

January 24, 2007 Davidsonian sports resolutions

And finally, what would resolutions be without at least one humor column? in 1963, Dave Pusey reported statements submitted to the fictional Faculty Committee on New Year’s and Hannukah Resolutions. These included competing demands from benefactors Charles Dana and the Belk Family with Dana demanding Belk dorm be renamed for him and the Belks demanding that the (then) new science building be renamed for them.

An image of Henry Lilly, beloved English professor or snarling gambler?

Henry Lilly, beloved English professor or snarling gambler?

English professor Henry Lilly announced that he was “sick of being a kindly old gent type, and will revert to my secret desire of being a professional gambler, complete with snarl, eyeshades, and brocaded vest.

Dorm mother Mrs. J. B. Moore declared her intention of selling all the  pin-ups she’s confiscated for a college fund and music professor and choir director Don Plott announced his ambition to get the Male Chorus on TV by including “in its repertoire for the coming year numerous Ferlin Huskey songs and a trained chimp act.”

For more fun, click on the article below:

January 11, 1963 article in the Davidsonian with the heading, "New Year's And The Resolutions"

January 11, 1963 tongue-in-cheek resolutions

What ever your resolutions are for 2015, Around the D hopes following us will be one of them!